Trade Deadline: Bucks, Warriors Trade For Each Other’s Shadows

Photo from Vít Hassan via Flickr

Trade deadline season finally took off late Tuesday, with an intriguing Golden State-Milwaukee swap. From the gentlemen that brought you Corey Maggette for Dan Gadzuric and Charlie Bell:

The Milwaukee Bucks traded Andrew Bogut and Stephen Jackson to the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday night for a three-player package headed by high-scoring guard Monta Ellis.The Bucks also receive forward Ekpe Udoh and center Kwame Brown in the deal

via Milwaukee Bucks trade Andrew Bogut, Stephen Jackson to Golden State Warriors for Monta Ellis – ESPN.

There is sense to be made here, from both sides. The Bucks clear up loads of cap space by bringing in Kwame Brown’s expiring deal and sending out the poisonous fumes of the burning pile of feces that is Stephen Jackson, and bring in a talented scorer to boot. The Warriors finally pick a side in the 32-month saga that is the Stephen Curry/Monta Ellis backcourt, get their elite defensive center, and now have the legitimacy to play horrible basketball for the rest of the season so they can sneak back in to the lottery in one of the deepest drafts in years.

The basketball intricacies are fascinating. Bogut and Lee is a frontcourt match made in heaven: Lee is the high-post presence that Bogut never had in Milwaukee, enabling him to make the logical move from the overmatched only option to just one other crucial part. Both are elite passers with deft touches around the basket, a combination of big man that pretty much can’t be rivaled in today’s NBA outside of Los Angeles and Memphis. Conversely, Bogut very nearly league-best interior defense is just the security blanket that Lee has always lacked. Add in the fact that both have career defensive rebound rates over 24%, and Golden State looks very, very scary long term, ankles and elbows notwithstanding. Curry-Thompson-Dorell Wright-Lee-Bogut lineup, with Jackson and hopefully that top 7 pick helping out is a good NBA lineup, if not a great one.

Milwaukee loses that presence as part of a complete makeover from a defensive squad to an offensive squad, albeit one that specializes in quantity over quality. The Bucks will never have trouble creating a shot again. Making them is another matter – here’s hoping that Ersan Ilyasova, instead of wilting and crying in the corner, continues to grab every offensive rebound in sight – but the previous Bucks were bad at both. Meanwhile, they get what could possibly be the biggest steal of the deal in Ekpe Udoh, a +/- deity who may or may not become an all-NBA defender given the minutes.

Adding the cap space, and remembering that both Jackson and Bogut were giving the Bucks nothing this year, and it’s possible to argue that this both vaults Milwaukee into the playoffs over the Knicks (sheesh, the Knicks, let’s not even go there), and are better in the long-term. In fact, if Milwaukee finds a team willing to take on Beno Udrih’s 2012-2013 salary (the Lakers? The Blazers? The Rubio-less Wolves? People need point guards) and amnesties Drew Gooden next summer, they could be looking at 28 million dollars of cap space. Re-sign Ghostface Illa, AND GO BANANAS.

More than anything, though, this trade is striking from a grass is greener perspective. The Bucks have been in “if only Andrew comes back” mode for two years now, the prospect of the Aussie’s rehab going well hanging over the franchise like a noose. It’s unfortunate – that 09-10 squad meant quite a bit to me, as I’ve written here before, and this is the final nail in its coffin – but it’s true. A franchise can only go on for so long before the what-ifs sink it, and Milwaukee’s nose was barely above water levels as is.

The same went for Golden State. Ellis is wildly overrated, but he’s just as talented, and Stephen Curry is a bum wheel away from being an elite NBA player, but the fit wasn’t there, and wasn’t going to be. As Ethan Sherwood Strauss noted a few weeks ago, making an actual pick was always more important than what the pick would eventually be. Well, the pick has been made, and even if it comes at the price of Stephen Jackson, even if it is dependent on how Bogut can come back, even if we’re still not sure what a Klay Thompson is (though we’re less pessimistic than last month), even if it just reminds us how ridiculously stupid it was to amnesty Charlie Bell’s expiring contract instead of Andris Biedrins (you could have had Bogut, Lee, Curry AND CAP SPACE, you fools!) – it is commendable.

Of course, these problems aren’t over – they were just shifted. Stephen Jackson’s contract is still as bad as it ever was, even though it makes all the karmic sense in the world that the original offending front office is the one that must pay it.The Andrew Bogut Comeback Train is now parked in the Bay area instead of Wisconsin, but it will still suffocate an entire franchise until Bogut is either back in full form or retired. The Monta Ellis Quandary will live on as well, even if it involves a different ill-fated backcourt companion. The fears are all the same, it’s just another franchise trying to overcome them.

Which is why it’s so fascinating.

Noam Schiller

Noam Schiller lives in Jerusalem, where he sifts through League Pass Broadband delay and insomnia in a misguided effort to watch as much basketball as possible. He usually fails miserably, but is entertained nonetheless. He prefers passing big men to rebounding guards but sees no reason why he should have to compromise on any of them.